Aviation and Airport Development Newsletter, September 7, 2010, vol. 2, no. 11

Vol. 2, No. 11, September 7, 2010

The following is a summary review of articles from all over the nation concerning aviation and airport development law news during the past week.  These were all first posted, in abbreviated form, on http://twitter.com/smtaber.  This Newsletter also appears as a post on our website on our blog, The Aviation and Airport Development News.  For more information about the Taber Law Group, please visit our website:  http://taberlaw.com.

AIRPORTS

San Gabriel Valley airports get $1 million improvements. – Rebecca Kimitch, Pasadena Star-News, August 26, 2010
The federal government is investing nearly $1 million in safety improvements at El Monte Airport and Brackett Field in La Verne, Los Angeles County officials announced this week. Advanced weather monitoring systems will be installed at both airports, improving opportunities for weather forecasters to provide reports localized for the San Gabriel Valley and making it safer for planes to take off and land when air traffic control towers are closed. “It’s long overdue,” said Richard Smith, chief of the county’s aviation division. In addition, the airports’ runways and taxiways will be resurfaced. Both projects are being funded almost entirely through a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. Each resurfacing project will cost approximately $340,000 and the automated weather observation systems cost $150,000 each. The county will chip in 5 percent of the costs from a special fund of revenues generated at the airports from rent, fuel sales and other fees.
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Pilots report more laser strikes around LAX than at any other airport. – Art Marroquin, Daily Breeze, August 27, 2010
In the latest in a series of laser strikes on local aircraft, two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters were forced to land in the past week after the devices were pointed at their pilots, authorities said Friday. A laser was aimed at a Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter flying over Cabrillo Beach around 9 p.m. Thursday, forcing the pilot to immediately make a “precautionary landing” at Los Angeles International Airport, said Petty Officer Adam Eggers, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard. Just two nights earlier, another Coast Guard helicopter was flashed with a laser during a patrol over the South Bay, Eggers said. In both cases, the pilots were grounded from flying for 24 hours as doctors checked their eyesight for signs of damage. No arrests have been made in either case.
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FAA finishes $14.5M SFO runway upgrades. – Eric Young, San Francisco Business Times, August 27, 2010
Federal aviation officials said Friday they completed runway improvements at San Francisco International Airport paid for with stimulus dollars. The SFO improvements leveled out two runways that tend to settle over time because of ground conditions. The new asphalt concrete resurface also will prevent unexpected runway shutdowns due to pavement breakdown, and will guard against crumbling pavement creating debris that can damage aircraft. FAA news release… FAA Celebrates Completion of San Francisco International Airport Recovery Act Projects $37 million in Recovery Act funds are upgrading San Francisco Bay area airports and aviation facilities
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Denver airport breaks ground on new rail line to downtown. – Roger Yu, USA Today, August 30, 2010
Denver transportation officials broke ground last week on a new rail line that will link the city’s downtown to Denver International Airport. The East Corridor line, which is estimated to be completed in 2016, is the first of four lines that will be built for a new commuter (heavy) rail system in the region. Denver has light rail service, but it stops far short of the airport. Denver joins a growing list of U.S. airports that are trying to promote public rail transportation. Others that will be connected directly via rail in the coming years include Dallas Love Field, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Oakland, Washington Dulles and Los Angeles. The East Corridor line, which will cost about $1 billion, will stop at five stations from the airport before arriving at Union Station downtown. Passengers headed to the airport will be able to check their bags at Union Station before getting on the train for the 30-minute ride.
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Meeting looks at results of airport noise research. – Lucas K. Murray, The Gloucester County Times, August 31, 2010
It’d be tough to find a noisier spot in the Delaware Valley than Philadelphia International Airport. It’s the 11th busiest airport in the world and according to Federal Aviation Administration officials, it’s only going to get busier. Nearly 560,000 arrivals and departures are slated to go to and come from the airport, with that number expected to rise to more than 622,000 within the next five years. By comparison, that figure was about 448,000 in 2003. In an ongoing effort by officials at Philadelphia International Airport a Noise Compatibility Study for the airport address means by which the effects of those flights on the public can be minimized. An informational meeting was held Monday night in the borough to make known what years of research on the topic has revealed.
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Monterey County airports receive federal funding. – The Californian, August 30, 2010
Salinas Municipal Airport is among four local airports to receive a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. Salinas airport received $2.1 million “for the phased reconstruction of parallel Taxiway B,” according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. The project is necessary to improve the poor condition of the pavement and to meet current standards, Farr said. Other awards: Monterey Peninsula Airport: $2.3 million; Mesa Del Rey Airport (King City): $484,750; Watsonville Municipal Airport: $52,250; Hollister Municipal Airport: $30,000.
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Airport expansion work set. – Vindy.com, September 1, 2010
The Western Reserve Port Authority will move forward with planned expansion of the snow-removal equipment building, construct a taxiway and improve airstrip markings with some of its $1 million annual Federal Aviation Administration allocation. The airport qualifies for $1 million each year in Airport Improvement Funds by meeting a minimum number of passengers flying out of the airport. The port-authority board approved the expenditure of $637,868 of the $1 million at a meeting last week. The taxiway will be built on the east side of the airport closest to state Route 193 and will help with the port authority’s goal of expanding business through future construction of additional aircraft hangars, said Dan Dickten, director of aviation.
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FAA criticizes Clem’s oversight of Aurora airport. – Alan Gustafson, Statesman-Journal, August 25, 2010
Federal regulators say an aircraft parking lease awarded by former state aviation director Dan Clem violated federal policies by benefiting a businessman at the expense of the Aurora State Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration also says that state financial management of the busy airport is “deficient at best.” The feds recently gave the state 30 days to submit a plan of correction, action required to continue the flow of $150,000 per year in federal funding for the airport. Federal scrutiny of leasing practices at the state-owned airport in north Marion County focused on a 2008 lease Clem awarded to TLM Holdings and its managing member, Ted Millar.
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Tinicum homes in airport’s crosshairs. – Susan Phillips, WHYY, September 2, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration has given another green light to Philadelphia International Airport’s $5.3 billion expansion and released its final environmental impact statement for the project. But the expansion is not welcomed by Delaware County residents who could be displaced. Philadelphia International has one of the worst track records for flight delays in the country. The FAA spent seven years reviewing the environmental impacts of the proposed expansion, which is supposed to put a dent in projected flight delays. The downside is a loss more than 80 acres of wetlands, the displacement of 80 businesses, and the loss of 72 homes in Tinicum Township, Delaware County. Jack Whelan is Chairman of Delaware County Council. Whelan says the Township has been unsuccessful in fighting the airport expansion.
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DOT Celebrates Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Recovery Act Projects. – FAA News Release, September 2, 2010
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) highlighted $15 million in safety upgrades funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will ensure the continued safe and efficient operation of aircraft at the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). “Recovery Act funding made these safety projects possible,” said U.S Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari during a press conference at BWI. “Not only are we keeping Marylanders at work, we are also improving airport safety and efficiency.” Deputy Secretary Porcari lauded the ongoing safety, environmental, communications, and utility projects at BWI. When completed next year, BWI’s reconstructed aircraft parking apron between Concourses C and D will allow for more efficient operations among larger aircraft and service vehicles. The projects also include a new environmentally friendly deicing fluid collection system and new communications and utility systems.
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Other Articles on the Same Topic:

Stimulus funds for BWI projects help to keep workers employed. – Ovetta Wiggins, The Washington Post, September 3, 2010
Keith Jones, a project manager for Baltimore-based P. Flanigan & Sons, watched Thursday as his construction crew at one end of the parking lot apron at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport worked on a new underground system that collects de-icing fluid from planes. At the other end, a worker operating a bulldozer ripped up 30-year-old asphalt that will be replaced with concrete pavement. Jones said he’s hired about 50 workers to do the safety upgrades and reconstruction of the aircraft parking apron between two concourses at BWI. “They appreciate to have the job,” Jones said of his employees, which included about a half-dozen college students during the summer.
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Feds award $5.4 million grant for Marco airport taxiway. – Marco Island Sun Times, September 2, 2010
A $5.4 million federal grant announced Thursday will be used to fund a new taxiway and apron at the Marco Island Executive Airport, county officials said. The U.S. Department of Transportation notified Collier County staff that the Collier County Airport Authority will receive $5.46 million from the Federal Aviation Administration for the construction work. “I am so thrilled to hear this news,” said District 1 Commissioner Donna Fiala. “The Marco Airport is a priority due to its critical need for a taxiway. With its heavy volume of private air traffic – especially during peak season – and the absence of a taxiway, it has been a major safety issue. It’s just an accident waiting to happen. I am just ecstatic about this federal funding.”  The airport has a busy 5,000-foot runway that serves business and tourist jet aircraft traveling to south Naples and Marco Island. Because the airport lacks a taxiway, aircraft have to land and taxi back down the runway while other aircraft are waiting to land and take off. The Marco airport is the only 5,000-foot runway in Florida that accommodates jet traffic without a taxiway. “The environmental permitting and mitigation process has taken nearly 10 years to complete and pending funding, the Collier County Airport Authority has completed all work necessary to construct this taxiway. This project has been a priority of the general aviation community for many years,” said County Manager Leo Ochs.  “I am pleased to see that we are moving this project forward.”
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FAA

Respected general aviation members held at gunpoint by police. – Keith Stein, D.C Examiner, August 30, 2010
This past weekend, local police in California ordered two of the most respected members of the general aviation community out of their plane at gunpoint when they believed the aircraft they had was stolen. Confusion about an aircraft tail number led to John and Martha King being placed in handcuffs and put into the back of police cars until the matter was sorted out. The Kings are co-chairmen and co-owners for King Schools, Inc., a company that is used throughout the general aviation community for flight training. The Kings were flying a single-engine Cessna 172 with the tail number N50545. Apparently N50545 was used on an older Cessna 150 aircraft that was reported stolen several years ago. Local police in Santa Barbara, Calif., met the Kings once they landed with the idea they were flying a stolen aircraft.
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Mistakes rise for Washington region’s air traffic controllers. – Ashley Halsey, III, The Washington Post, August 30, 2010
Onboard systems intended to keep airliners from colliding in midair have been triggered more than 45 times this year in the skies over Washington as air traffic controllers have made dangerous mistakes at a record-setting pace. With 38 officially reported errors this year, the controllers who guide planes to and from the region’s airports already have exceeded annual error totals for every year since their facility began operation in 2003. The Federal Aviation Administration dispatched a safety review team to the Warrenton facility last month after a controller error resulted in a United Airlines flight narrowly missing a collision with a 22-seat Gulfstream business jet. One of the United passengers, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), contacted the FAA.
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Other Articles on the Same Topic:

Air traffic ‘close calls’ reviewed in D.C. – UPI, August 31, 2010
Onboard collision warnings in airliners have been triggered more than 45 times this year over Washington due to air traffic control errors, officials say. A review by the Federal Aviation Administration at the Warrenton, Va., control facility found close calls due to controllers’ mistakes exceeded annual error totals for every year since the facility opened in 2003, The Washington Post reported Monday. The review was initiated in July after a controller error resulted in a United Airlines flight narrowly missing a collision with a 22-seat Gulfstream business jet, the newspaper said. One of the United passengers, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., contacted the FAA.
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FAA-PMA issued to Approach Fast Stack. – General Aviation News, August 30, 2010
Approach Fast Stack, a manufacturer of avionics interface products, has received FAA-PMA (Federal Aviation Administration-Parts Material Authorization) on the newly released Pro-X Hub. Approach’s modular wiring system interconnects avionics components with a central hub and ready-built cables for the majority of avionics in the marketplace, including Garmin’s panel mount avionics, according to company officials. All cables are double shielded and grounded at the hub, which eliminates the possibility of ground loops, and protects against any noise induction into the avionics system. The Pro-X Hub is an EFIS centric design allowing the flexibility of installing any EFIS system in the avionics suite. Approach specializes in assisting customers in designing and developing an avionics suite that best meets the pilot’s needs, company officials note. In addition, Approach helps customers in the installation and operation of their avionics packages, and provides interface documentation and support. Approach Fast Stack is located at Konshok Field (PKD) in Park Rapids, Minn.
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NASAO Worries Despite Stimulus Fund Billions. – William Garvey, Aviation Week, August 30, 2010
Airports in all 50 states have benefited from $1 billion in federal stimulus money, but state officials worried that Congress will not pass a true funding bill for the FAA and its infrastructure support programs this year. That’s what Henry Ogrodzinski had to say today. Speaking to Aviation Week this morning, the head of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) complimented FAA for being “much faster than the highway department at getting the money and getting it out to the states.”  At this point, he said, all the funding — “an additional $1 billion” – has been obligated and projects have been completed or are under way. While some have criticized certain projects such as funding for two general aviation fields in Alaska, he said, “I think the money spent on aviation was spent well” and that “there we no boondoggles.” As for the Alaskan facilities, Ogrodzinski said, “you can’t get to those areas without aviation.” However, he was not complimentary about Congressional action on FAA reauthorization and hoped for alterations of funding formulas for the Airport Improvement Program. He said conversations with legislators and their staffs lead him with “the dimmest view of passage” before the November elections. And chances of passage during the “lame duck” period between the elections and the start of the new congress are “pretty slim.” NASAO’s annual conference is set for Sept. 11-15 in Wichita, Kan.
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FAA probing lasers pointed at Pa. medical choppers. – The Associated Press, August 31, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating two incidents in which someone shined a green laser into the cockpits of two Pittsburgh-area medical helicopters. STAT MedEvac spokesman Dan Nakles says the main concern is that the lights could distract pilots or their crew. FAA spokesman Jim Peters says the first incident happened about 9:10 p.m. Saturday about 11 1/2 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The other incident happened about 7 1/2 miles north of the city, but a time wasn’t specified. Nobody was hurt but both helicopters had been carrying patients. Nakles says similar things happen occasionally and that it’s hard to determine if someone is doing it on purpose. The FAA says using a laser to interfere with an aircraft is a federal crime.
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FAA Releases Airport Land For Development. – Kevin Fitzsimmons, 69 News, August 31, 2010
The Federal Aviation Administration has released 155 acres of land near the Reading Regional Airport from aviation status. That means it can now be developed. The Berks County Industrial Authority wants to buy the land for $2.6 million and turn it into a research park. Officials said they are hoping to get state grants for the project. They said the park would create 2,000 jobs.
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Leavenworth County commissioners accept FAA grant. – Elvyn Jones, Basehor Sentinel, August 31, 2010
Leavenworth County commissioners agreed last Thursday to sign documents accepting a Federal Aviation Administration grant. In so doing, commissioners repeated vows that county voters would have to approve a bond issue before land was purchased for the site or construction started. The FAA will provide $150,000 for the study, and the county will pay $4,200 of the required local match with local partners providing the rest. The vote to accept the money for a site-selection study for a possible new general aviation airport location came on a 2-1 vote. Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he was concerned the county was accepting in bad faith because few believe county voters would approve a bond for such a facility. Commissioners John Flower and J.C. Tellefson said further studies would allow voters to make a rational decision on an air.
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FAA Controllers to Use New Terminology Prior to Takeoff. – FAA News Release, August 31, 2010
Pilots authorized by air traffic controllers to taxi onto runways and await takeoff clearance will be instructed to “line up and wait” rather than “position and hold” beginning on September 30 under new terminology adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The new terminology, which was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board, conforms to terminology used internationally under International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines. A safety analysis conducted by the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization Terminal Services determined that adopting the phrase “line up and wait” will eliminate confusion, particularly among pilots who also fly overseas, and further reduce the risk of runway incursions. Beginning September 30, controllers will state the aircraft’s call sign, state the departure runway and then instruct pilots to “line up and wait,” i.e., “United 451, Runway 33L, line up and wait.” The phrase, “traffic holding in position” will continue to be used to advise other aircraft that traffic has been authorized to line up and wait on an active runway. The FAA will continue to emphasize that pilots are not permitted to cross any runway encountered while taxiing without explicit instructions from controllers.
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FAA inspection reveals expired license at Lakeland Airport. – Laurel Carlson, The Lakeland Times, September 3, 2010
An inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration Aug. 17 revealed the Lakeland Airport has operated its automated weather observation system (AWOS) without a valid license since December 2008. “The big finding was, we have no license for our AWOS system. It’s been terminated,” administrator Jon Schmitz said at Thursday’s meeting. “I have no idea why my predecessors didn’t renew the license.” The AWOS is a series of sensors which observe temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, visibility, cloud coverage and altimeter setting. Automated weather observations are broadcast to aircraft via a very high frequency (VHF) airband radio frequency which operates between 118-136 megahertz. “This could be serious,” Schmitz said.
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Airport lands revenue boost from Delta, AirTran. – Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 31, 2010
Airlines at Atlanta’s airport have agreed to make $30 million in extra rental payments to help the city get bond financing needed to keep the new international terminal project on track. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, flanked by the chief executives of Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways, announced the deal Tuesday. The supplemental rent payments will occur over four years starting in fiscal 2013, and the city could refund at least some of the money later in the decade depending on financial conditions. The move is designed to boost Hartsfield-Jackson International’s revenue stream, making bonds more attractive by assuring investors that it has adequate revenue and reserves to repay the debt, city officials said. A successful bond sale this fall or winter, in turn, should assure the international terminal’s completion in the spring of 2012, officials said. The terminal will open an east entrance to the airport for travelers, add gates for more international flights -particularly by Delta — and create space for new growth at the world’s busiest airport.
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AVIATION & AIRPORT LITIGATION

Polar Air Cargo LLC Agrees to Plead Guilty to Price Fixing on Air Cargo Shipments. – Department of Justice News Release, September 2, 2010
Polar Air Cargo LLC has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $17.4 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices in the air transportation industry, the Department of Justice announced today. According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Polar Air Cargo LLC’s co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy to fix the cargo rates charged to certain customers for international air cargo shipments between the United States and Australia from at least as early as Jan. 1, 2000, and continuing until at least Feb. 14, 2006. Polar Air Cargo LLC, an American airline based in Long Beach, Calif., joined and participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as Jan. 1, 2000, until April 30, 2003. Under the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Polar Air Cargo LLC has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing antitrust investigation.
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Walden questions Mercy Flights’ fine. – Greg Stiles, The Mail Tribune, September 1, 2010
Congressman Greg Walden has asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for details on the Federal Aviation Administration investigation into Mercy Flight’s promotional material that led to a $30,000 fine. The Oregon Republican wrote LaHood on Tuesday after Southern Oregon constituents raised the issue following a Mail Tribune story about the Transportation Department’s consent order concerning the non-profit’s marketing. “I would appreciate you informing me of the details of FAA’s enforcement investigation into this matter and explaining why the FAA chose to levy such an unreasonable fine on Mercy Flights without even affording it the opportunity to immediately modify the language in question in its promotional materials or comply with a non-punitive cease and desist order,” Walden wrote.
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Interim FAA bill includes new pilot training rules. – Paul Lowe, AIN online, September 1, 2010
Faced with leaving for vacation without passing an FAA reauthorization bill that would tighten pilot training rules, lawmakers stripped those provisions from the main bill and added them to the 15th short-term extension of funding, taxes and programs for the agency. Families of victims of Colgan Air’s Flight 3407 have been lobbying arduously for improved pilot training since the regional turboprop crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February last year. Lawmakers said the latest extension, which expires September 30, will boost pilot-training programs, combat pilot fatigue and dramatically increase requirements for airline pilots to have more flying experience by mandating a minimum of 1,500 hours–up from the current 250–before they can fly “commercial aircraft.”
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Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions Implore Congress to Pass Key Flight Attendant Provisions in the FAA Reauthorization Bill. – PR Newswire, September 1, 2010
As Congressional leaders begin to return to work after summer recess, six unions representing over 90,000 flight attendants at 37 U.S. airlines, urged members to quickly pass the comprehensive reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that was almost completed earlier this year. After 15 continuing resolutions, both the House and Senate passed versions that contained several key flight attendant provisions but the differences have yet to be resolved. “Passage of the FAA Reauthorization bill, which contains several flight attendant specific safety related items, is long overdue and must be a legislative priority. We call on Congress to finish the work they started, work out the differences between the two bills, and pass a comprehensive FAA reauthorization. Short term extensions are no longer a viable option. It is time that workplace safety and health protections for flight attendants are finally addressed,” stated leaders from the Flight Attendant Coalition.
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AA Flight Delayed Over Concerns Pilot Was Drinking. – Doug Dunbar, cbs11tv.com, September 1, 2010
An American Airlines flight from DFW to Cancun was delayed Wednesday over suspicions the pilot may have been drinking. Flight 1211 was supposed to depart DFW International Airport around 4:30 Wednesday afternoon for Cancun, a popular tourist destination along the Mexican Coast. CBS 11 has learned a flight attendant believed the pilot may have been drinking on the job, and alerted airline officials. American Airlines would not confirm who alerted authorities, saying the information was confidential. They say they are investigating the complaint, and that company policy is to replace the pilot any time concerns are raised.
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APA: Pilot Falsely Accused Of Drinking On Job. – Stephanie Lucero, cbs11tv.com, September 2, 2010
The Allied Pilots Association says one of its members was falsely accused of being under the influence of alcohol yesterday. In a written statement the APA does not mention the pilot’s name but says “Our pilot was falsely accused of alcohol use prior to departure. To protect his career and the airline, he chose to remove himself from duty and voluntarily undergo testing.” Aviation Analyst and pilot Denny Kelly says the flying public does not need to be concerned about pilots using alcohol. “They don’t need any more laws. They don’t need any more people trying to catch somebody doing something” says Kelly. “Pilots need less supervision and less regulations. They don’t need more.”
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Continental CEO defends merger with United in trial. – Bloomberg News, September 1, 2010
Continental Airlines Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Smisek defended a proposed merger with UAL Corp., testifying in federal court that combining the airlines would “increase our revenue and decrease our costs.” He took the witness stand Tuesday in San Francisco to respond to a lawsuit seeking to block the deal. A merger would create a monopoly, increasing fares and costing jobs, according to the suit. United and Continental received regulatory approval last week to combine under an all-stock deal announced May 3. The new company would surpass Delta Air Lines Inc. as the world’s biggest airline and mesh United’s Pacific routes with Continental’s service in Latin America and over the Atlantic.
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AVIATION/AIRPORT SAFETY

Bird strikes Alaska Airlines plane. – Greg Morrison, CNN, August 31, 2010
A bird struck the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines plane but the aircraft managed to land safely, officials said early Tuesday morning. The bird hit the plane above the windshield shortly after it took off Monday evening from Los Angeles International Airport en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, said Mike Fergus of the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane was 1.5 miles off the runway, Fergus said. The plane, Flight 707 with 159 passengers, returned safely to the airport for an inspection, said airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan. According to data released by the FAA, incidences of birds hitting planes have gone up in recent years. Last year officials said a migrating flock of Canada geese caused US Airways Flight 1549 to ditch in New York’s Hudson River. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles safely guided that plane to an emergency landing.
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Strip club spotlight dazes Southwest pilots on approach to Love Field. – Andrea Ahles, Star-Telegram, August 31, 2010
All the TV stations in D/FW have been buzzing about the news that a Southwest pilot was temporarily blinded by a spotlight from a strip club as he landed his flight at Dallas Love Field on Sunday. The pilot of Flight 939 from Albuquerque, N.M. to Dallas was able to safely land the plane after the flash of light interfered with his vision prior to landing. “All of a sudden, a bright flash of light, and their night vision is destroyed, and it takes a while to come back,” Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford told NBC5. “When a laser goes off, it’s like a flash bulb going off in your eye.” On Monday, when the story was first being reported, authorities weren’t sure where the spotlight had come from. It has since been traced to a spotlight on the roof of Bomb Shells Cabaret, an all-nude strip club near Interstate 35. The club’s general manager Zach Carson said he has disconnected the light and won’t turn it on again until it is repositioned.
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747 makes it back to SFO after engine fails. – Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, September 1, 2010
A Qantas Airways flight made an emergency landing at San Francisco International Airport early Tuesday after an engine failure in midair punched a hole in the external casing, an incident that one expert called “extremely rare.” Qantas Flight 74, a Boeing 747 with 212 passengers on board, left San Francisco for Sydney about 11:30 p.m. Monday. The plane had reached 30,000 feet about 45 minutes after takeoff when a malfunction in the No. 4 engine on the right wing ripped a hole in the external casing, or cowling, authorities said.
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Simulator training flaws tied to airline crashes. – Alan Levin, USA Today, September 1, 2010
Flaws in flight simulator training helped trigger some of the worst airline accidents in the past decade, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal accident records. More than half of the 522 fatalities in U.S. airline accidents since 2000 have been linked to problems with simulators, devices that are used nearly universally to train the nation’s airline pilots, the records show. Simulator training is credited with saving thousands of lives. But the problem, according to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) case files and safety experts, is that in rare but critical instances they can trick pilots into habits that lead to catastrophic mistakes. Last month, the NTSB blamed deficient simulator training in part for the Dec. 20, 2008, crash of a Continental Airlines jet in Denver.
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Jetliner Brake Systems Probed. – Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2010
An American Airlines plane that careened off a slick Jamaican runway last year has prompted crash investigators to reassess how well some jetliner braking systems perform on various runway surfaces in rainy conditions, people familiar with the details say. American Flight 331 was en route from Miami to Kingston in stormy weather when it landed nearly halfway down the runway on Dec. 22. The pilots used maximum braking power but the Boeing 737 still slid off the end of the strip, ending up with a collapsed landing gear and the fuselage cracked in two places. The crash, according to these people, has led the National Transportation Safety Board investigators to challenge longstanding airline practices and technical assumptions regarding braking capabilities on wet runways. By those criteria, the advanced Boeing 737-800 should have been able to stop safely on the strip.
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The Difficulty in Improving Airline Safety Now. – Scott McCartney, The Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2010
This year may end up being the worst of the past five years for airline crashes worldwide, and that doesn’t count some high-profile military and private-plane fatal accidents that killed major political figures. So far, there have been 13 fatal crashes of passenger-airline flights, according to Ascend Worldwide Ltd., a London-based aviation consulting company. That’s through eight months. Last year there were only 10 fatal airline crashes of flights carrying passengers, and 13 total in 2008. “It’s an average sort of year, but the problem is we still have four months to go,” said Paul Hayes, Ascend’s director of safety. The frequency of airline crashes is basically random, and they do sometimes come in bunches. In August alone, Ascend counted five airline crashes that killed passengers, including the crashes of a Boeing 737 in Colombia and an Embraer 190 in Yichun, China. In addition, the Alaska crash of a private plane claimed the lives of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and four others on Aug. 9.
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EMS air safety eyed after Arkansas accident. – Joan Lowy, The Associated Press, September 1, 2010
An accident this week in Arkansas has boosted to 21 the number of people that have been killed so far this year in medical helicopter and plane crashes, renewing concerns about the safety of such operations. An Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter crashed Tuesday near Scotland, Ark., killing the pilot, a nurse and a paramedic. It was the fourth fatal accident this summer: A medical helicopter crash in Tucson, Ariz., killed three people on July 28; a crash near Kingfisher, Okla., on July 22 killed two people and seriously injured a third, and an air ambulance plane crashed July 4 in Alpine, Texas, killing five. “This is very alarming,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said in an interview. “The safety board continues to be very concerned about the safety of this industry.” The number of deaths represents a sharp spike from last year, when only six people were killed in one plane and nine helicopter accidents. There were 28 people killed in 2008 in EMS helicopter crashes — the most medical helicopter fatalities in any year, according to NTSB records dating back to 2000. There were 31 people killed in 2004 in a combination of medical helicopter and plane accidents, the most deaths in a year in the air medical industry in the last decade, NTSB records show.
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Other Articles on the Same Topic:

Helicopter Crash Renews Concerns About Safety of Medical Flights. – Elise Craig, FairWarning.com, September 2, 2010
A helicopter accident in Arizona this week brings the death toll from crashes of medical helicopters and planes so far this year to 21, raising questions about the safety of medical aircraft, The Associated Press reports. Tuesday’s crash of an Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter near Scotland, Ark., which killed three, was the fourth such fatal accident this summer. This year’s total is up sharply from last year, when six people were killed. In 2004, the deadliest year for these accidents in the last decade, 31 people died in medical helicopter and plane crashes. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the AP that he is concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration has not implemented safety recommendations for the air medical industry made by his agency. The recommendations include requiring helicopter operators to install systems that warn pilots when they are in danger of crashing into mountains or buildings and having formal evaluations to determine if flights are too risky. An FAA spokesman said the agency plans to publish new safety rules soon. There are about 800 airplanes and helicopters in the emergency medical transport industry.
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Tax loophole on airline fees means fewer funds for aviation safety projects. – Jaclyn Giovis, Sun Sentinel, September 5, 2010
Airlines’ increased use of fees means carriers contribute less to a federal tax pool, which partially funds the Federal Aviation Administration. The 7.5 percent excise tax on fares helps pay for such airline safety efforts as upgrades to the air traffic control system and airport runway projects. Revenues to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund have fallen to about $11 billion in 2009, from about $12 billion in 2007. Fewer passengers and lower fares are partially to blame. If baggage fees collected last year had been subject to the excise tax, the fund would have received about $186 million, according to a recently released U.S. Government Accountablility Office report. While this only represents about 2 percent of the fund’s total revenues, it’s projected to grow. Some say this tax loophole has given carriers an incentive to introduce more and more fees.
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Move the radar in Virginia Beach. – The Virginian Pilot, September 5, 2010
If we’re worried about national security at Virginia Beach because tall buildings block one-third of the range of the Federal Aviation Administration’s radar at Oceana Naval Air Station, the answer is not to do nothing and hope a hurricane clears the view. The answer is to move the radar. Yes, it’s expensive. Depending on the extent of the construction and relocation, anecdotal estimates to move the radar to Fort Story or the Eastern Shore range from a few million to $25 million. Yes, it would be complicated. The Air Route Surveillance Radar Model 4, which spins 360 degrees, is part of a network of 43 radars installed in the 1990s, primarily along the outer rim of the United States. The FAA uses it to direct air traffic; the Navy uses it to help manage offshore training, the Air Force monitors objects up to 250 nautical miles out between the New Jersey shore and the Outer Banks. The radar detects unidentified aircraft, which means it is also a national security tool. But it has a huge blind spot.
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Incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft on the rise. – Bill Vidonic, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 5, 2010
In the first eight months of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration received 17 reports in the Pittsburgh area of lasers being shined into aircraft cockpits. That’s as many as in the last five years combined. FAA spokesman Jim Peters said no major crashes in the United States have been blamed on lasers. “Nevertheless, when individuals use lasers maliciously or improperly, it’s a threat against aviation safety,” Peters said. Some arrests have been made nationally but none locally, officials said. The lasers are usually contained in small, handheld devices, so by the time police get to the area where the laser was last seen, the person using it is usually long gone. Last weekend, green lasers were flashed into the cockpits of two Stat MedEvac helicopters. Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said Friday his officers, who provide security on airport properties, have not made any arrests, but continue to watch for anyone shining a laser at aircraft.
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Tracking Planes That Aren’t in the Sky. – Susan Carey, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2010
When commercial planes are in the sky or on a runway, federal air-traffic controllers can usually spot them. But once they start shuttling among gates, terminals, de-icing pads and baggage carts, the aircraft are harder to find. Now some of the nation’s biggest airports and airlines are rolling out a new technology to help solve that problem. The ground-surveillance system, called Aerobahn, gives airline-ramp controllers and airport managers an electronic, real-time view of all the planes on the ground. The system has been particularly handy since April, when the Transportation Department passed a rule that prohibits domestic flights from remaining on the airport tarmac for more than three hours. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $27,500 a passenger. At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, John Selden, the aeronautical services manager, set the new Aerobahn system to alert workers when a plane full of passengers has sat for two hours. “Then we call the ramp tower: ‘Did you know that Flight 1025 has been out there for two hours?”‘ he says.
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AVIATION/AIRPORT SECURITY

2 Yemenis held by Dutch won’t face U.S. charges. – Jon Hilkevitch and Katherine Skiba, Chicago Tribune, September 1, 2010
U.S. officials announced Tuesday that two Yemenis arrested in Amsterdam after a flight from Chicago will not face charges in this country, but experts said the case exposed the strengths and weaknesses of U.S. aviation security. Department of Homeland Security officials, who allowed the men to go on their way despite suspicious circumstances, concluded that the system worked. Bags containing strange items — including a cellphone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol — were scrutinized, and the men were monitored as they continued their trip, officials said.
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Man being questioned in Miami airport evacuation released. – Jennifer Kay, The Associated Press, September 2, 2010
Investigators on Friday released a scientist detained at Miami International Airport after screeners spotted a metal canister in his luggage that looked like a pipe bomb, prompting an evacuation, a senior law enforcement official said. The official told The Associated Press that no charges were filed against the 70-year-old man and he was allowed to continue his trip. The official requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information. Neither the professor’s name nor his itinerary has been released. The man is an American citizen and was “very cooperative,” FBI agent Michael Leverock said at a news conference in Miami.
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AIRCRAFT

Boeing Replaces Manager on Struggling Jet. – Peter Sanders, The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2010
In an effort to get a second troubled new airplane back on track, Boeing Co. Friday replaced the leader of the 747-8 program, which is already more than a year behind schedule and far over-budget. Pat Shanahan, Airplane Programs vice president and general manager in the company’s commercial airplanes unit, will take the helm of the 747-8 program. Mr. Shanahan is effectively the number two executive at the commercial airplanes unit and reports directly to Jim Albaugh, the chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
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Yingling gets FAA approval on Skycatcher. – Daniel McCoy, Wichita Business Journal, August 30, 2010
Yingling Aviation announced Monday it has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for work on Cessna Aircraft Co.’s Model 162 Skycatcher. The company says it received the approval last month. It allows Yingling to maintain, inspect and alter the Skycatcher. “This receipt of this authority represents a significant accomplishment for Yingling,” Bob Gallop, the company’s vice president of repair station operations, said in a news release. “This means we can not only perform maintenance on the airplanes, we are approved to sign off on the repairs and return them to service.”
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Boeing 787 Training Takes Virtual Path. – Peter Sanders, The Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2010
Mechanics going through Boeing Co.’s 25-day training course for its coming 787 Dreamliner learn to fix all kinds of problems, from broken lights in the cabin to major glitches with its flight controls. One thing they won’t soon do: touch one of the planes. Using both laptop and desktop computers inside a classroom festooned with huge wall-mounted diagrams, airline mechanics will train on a system that displays an interactive 787 cockpit, as well as a 3-D exterior of the plane. Using a mouse, the mechanics can “walk” around the jet, open virtual maintenance access panels and go inside the plane to repair and replace parts. Like most new jetliners, the Dreamliner is an electronic tour de force, with computer networking cards as likely to need troubleshooting as mechanical parts. Boeing has made the training for the much-delayed jet as virtual as its first deliveries, now scheduled for sometime in the first quarter of 2011. At the end of the course, the mechanics get all training materials on a tiny memory stick. Once they are in the field staring up at an actual Dreamliner, they will also use laptop PCs to diagnose and solve real problems with the planes, Boeing says.
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Aviation Expo seeks help with air traffic. – Bill Rogers, Highlands Today, September 5, 2010
The U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is getting so large that it needs to have the Federal Aviation Administration to be involved to control traffic. That’s what Mike Willingham, executive director of Sebring Regional Airport, told the Highlands County Tourist Development Council during its meeting Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express in Lake Placid. Willingham and Bob Wood, chairman of the expo, were there to ask for $6,295 that will be used for the FAA to take control of the air tower for the event, which is set for Jan. 20-23, 2011. Next year will be the seventh year for the expo, which Willingham said has become an “international event.” He noted that participation by the FAA is “critical” because of the number of aircraft flying in on the Friday and Saturday of the event. Wood said exhibitors have come from 38 states and seven foreign countries. There were 157 exhibitors this year. The attendance at this year’s expo was about 11,000, according to Wood.
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AIRLINES

Continental, United Pilots Seek To End Outsourcing To Regional Airlines. – Doug Cameron, The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2010
Pilots at Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) and UAL Corp.’s (UAUA) United Airlines want to end outsourcing of flying to regional partners following their planned merger, a move likely to shake up the industry’s already turbulent labor relations. The companies’ pilots aim to finalize a new joint contract by the end of the year, and this week proposed bringing all flying in-house over a period of years following a merger that would create the world’s largest airline by revenue. U.S. network airlines have outsourced large parts of their domestic networks to an …
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Southwest Airlines to begin 18 daily flights at Newark next year. – Joseph R. Perone, Newark Star-Ledger, August 27, 2010
Southwest Airlines will start flying out of Newark Liberty International next spring in a move that should dramatically lower fares in the New Jersey market, analysts said. Southwest will lease take-off and landing slots from United and Continental airlines as those two carriers sought to satisfy regulators’ concerns about competition from their proposed merger, creating the world’s largest airline. Soon after the airlines’ announcement today, the justice department said that it has closed its anti-trust review of the merger. Southwest will have 18 daily flights from Newark that will phase in between March and June of next year. Southwest already operates out of LaGuardia International Airport in New York and Philadelphia International Airport.
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Mexicana Airlines ceases operations. – Art Marroquin, Daily Breeze, August 27, 2010
Mexicana Airlines will indefinitely cease operations by noon Saturday, including the cancelation of 11 remaining flights at Los Angeles International Airport, officials announced Friday. In a brief statement posted on its website, executives with the 89-year-old air carrier said the company did not have enough money to keep operating. “Financial deterioration and lack of agreements force Grupo Mexicana to stop flying,” the airline’s message said. “Grupo Mexicana deeply regrets all inconveniences caused to its passengers.” Nearly 600,000 passengers boarded Mexicana flights coming in and out of LAX during the first seven months of 2010, according to figures provided by the airport. Earlier this month, the airline suspended four of its 15 flights from LAX.
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Oberstar: Airline industry needs more regulation. – Gautham Nagesh, The Hill, August 29, 2010
The Department of Justice’s decision Friday to approve the merger of Continental and United Airlines shows Congress needs more authority over airlines to prevent further consolidation at the expense of consumers, according to House Transportation Committee chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.). Oberstar has been a harsh critic of the proposed merger; at a June hearing he accused the companies’ executives of hating competition and attempting to dominate the market. In a statement issued Saturday he indicated he will follow through on his promise to seek re-regulation of the airline industry in response to the deal. “When Congress deregulated the airlines in 1978, we were promised better service, added competition and more choices for consumers. With the United-Continental merger, our domestic carrier fleet will have shrunk to four network carriers,” Oberstar said. “Can a US Airways-American Airlines merger be far behind?”
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Emirates’s Clark Says Buying Stake in American Makes No Sense. – Stefana Bianchi, Bloomberg, August 30, 2010
Emirates, the biggest airline by international traffic, said it has no plan to acquire a stake in AMR Corp., denying speculation of a linkup with the parent of American Airlines. “We certainly wouldn’t be doing that,” Emirates President Tim Clark said in a telephone interview today. “Us buying a stake in AMR? It wouldn’t make sense.”  U.S. law limits foreign ownership of domestic carriers to no more than 25 percent of voting stock. American sat out the two recent big U.S. mergers, as Delta Air Lines Inc. bought Northwest Airlines Corp. in 2008 and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines agreed in May to combine with Continental Airlines Inc. AMR gained as much as 6.8 percent after Theflyonthewall.com reported that Dubai-based Emirates was in talks with the Justice Department to acquire a 49 percent stake. The shares of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR rose 13 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $6.17 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
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American to double bin space on its 737 jets. – Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today, August 30, 2010
Customers flying on American’s Boeing 737 jets soon will have a little less competition for space in the carrier’s overhead storage bins. That’s according to ABC News, which says AA is increasing the storage capacity of those bins as part of a overhaul of its 737s. Once complete, AA’s 737s will be able to hold five or six bags per bin, which is up from the current three, according to ABC’s calculations. ABC says “the airline is accomplishing this with a [sleight] of hand. The bins themselves stay the same but American is adding doors that curve outward and a slight ramp at the front edge of the bin. That allows roller bags to slip in wheels first and tilt slightly upward to fit right into the curve of the new door. Voila, space is magically doubled.” ABC’s story also details a number of other changes AA is making to its 737 fleet.
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Analysis: Regional airlines consolidating to cut costs. – Karen Jacobs, Reuters, August 30, 2010
Regional airlines are consolidating to reduce overhead so they can offer lower rates to their larger airline partners, while major airlines are selling their feeder carriers to create a larger pool of smaller carriers with which to do business. “It’s a game of survival, not of growth,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. “The good old days of having six majors, each with their own collection of supporting regionals, are gone.” Traditional or “legacy” carriers “have the critical mass to mandate very tough contractual terms,” he said. Much of U.S. regional air service is governed by capacity purchase agreements, which typically allow regional aircraft providers to be reimbursed for labor, fuel and other operating costs. Feeders have agreements with larger airlines to provide flights for the larger airlines, generally to smaller markets.
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Airline industry sees improvement, yet fees keep coming. – Hugo Martin, The Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2010
After more than two years of slumping demand and declining airfares, the U.S. airline industry is beginning to see signs of recovery. But don’t expect the airlines to cut you a break on fees. Total passenger numbers in May jumped nearly 3% from the same month last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This May — the latest month for which numbers are available — 82% of seats were filled, up from 80% in the same month last year. Revenue from transporting cargo also soared: 40% for international cargo and 11% for domestic cargo.
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Other Articles on the Same Topic:

Airlines back in profit in second quarter. – The Associated Press, August 30, 2010
The International Air Transport Association says 47 major carriers it monitors to assess the industry’s financial health reported a net profit of $3.9 billion in the second quarter. The results contrast with the $881 million net loss posted by carriers a year earlier. IATA says airlines in North America and the Asia-Pacific region performed best. The Geneva-based association says European carriers’ results were boosted by a $1.3 billion asset sale in the second quarter, without which they would have posted further losses. IATA said Monday that airlines benefited from stable fuel prices and slowly improving demand over the past months.
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BA Suspends More Staff; New Strike Ballot Possible. – Kaveri Niththyananthan, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2010
Tensions between British Airways PLC and cabin crew could escalate after trade union Unite on Tuesday disclosed that up to 80 staff have been suspended or sacked as a result of the dispute over working practices. The disclosure comes just days after the union, which represents cabin crew, wrote to members informing them it may again ballot for strike action. A Unite spokeswoman said Tuesday that up to 13 cabin crew had been sacked and the rest suspended …
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JAL to slash workforce as part of restructuring. – Shino Yuasa, The Associated Press, September 1, 2010
Japan Airlines outlined restructuring plans Tuesday that include cutting 30 percent of its global workforce and additional financing to keep flying after filing for bankruptcy protection in January. The plans, submitted to the Tokyo District Court and in the works for several months, also include selling off subsidiaries and dropping unprofitable domestic and international routes. The announcement culminates years of difficulty for Japan’s flagship carrier, battered by safety lapses, ballooning pension payments and the need to streamline its flight routes amid intensifying global competition. The plan is being orchestrated as a government-backed bailout, under a group called the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. of Japan, after JAL filed for bankruptcy protection with more than $25 billion in debt.
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American Airlines names new base maintenance chief. – The Associated Press, September 1, 2010
American Airlines named a new vice president for base maintenance on Wednesday, another new face in a department that has been in the spotlight since a 2008 maintenance snafu that led the Federal Aviation Administration to seek a $24.2 million civil penalty. William Collins has been an executive at GE Aviation, most recently leading its electric power division. American said Collins will be based in Tulsa, Okla., and oversee the airline’s maintenance at its repair, overhaul, and modification bases, which employ more than 8,800 people maintaining more than 600 planes. American’s last vice president for base maintenance was Fred Cleveland, who had been with American from January of 2008 until being put in charge of technical operations for American Eagle, the regional airline which, like American, is owned by Fort Worth-based AMR Corp.
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Continental, United lay out plan for merging FAA certificates. – Terry Maxon, The Dallas Morning News, September 1, 2010
When we talk about a merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines, we tend to think of it as a simple marriage of two parties. But in fact, between the two of them, the carriers hold five different operating certificates that must be dealt with as the two consummate their coupling. Continental has separate air carrier operating certificates for itself and its Continental Micronesia unit. United has an air carrier operating certificate. The certificates are issued under Part 121 of the federal aviation regulations, FARs. In addition, United and Continental both hold Part 145 repair station certificates that allow them to work on airplanes. In a memo emailed to Continental employees Wednesday, Continental laid out the sequence it and United will take after their legal merger, expected to close on Oct. 1:
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Continental: August passenger revenue rose. – The Associated Press, September 1, 2010
Continental Airlines Inc. said on Wednesday that a closely watched measure of revenue jumped as much as 19 percent in August, even as traffic fell. Many of the big airlines shrank their fleets during the recession, but fares are generally up from last year. That has made it possible for airlines to collect more money for flying even as they fly less. Continental said its revenue per available seat mile — a closely watched ratio of revenue to capacity — rose 18 percent to 19 percent in August. That followed a 21 percent rise in July and a 21.5 percent in June. Traffic for the month was down 0.4 percent from August 2009, counting both mainline and feeder carriers. Continental said it flew 8.7 billion revenue passenger miles, or one paying passenger flown one mile. That was down from almost 8.8 billion a year earlier. Continental mainline flights saw traffic fall 0.7 percent, while it rose 2 percent on regional carriers flying as Continental Express or Continental Connection.
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Cincinnati layoffs loom as Delta cuts regional jet fleet. – Dan Reed, USA Today, September 1, 2010
Delta Air Lines plans to park half of the regional jets in the fleet of its Comair subsidiary over the next two years and cut its number of employees at its Cincinnati hub. Comair currently operates about 99 regional jets. It plans to retire all but 16 of its 69 jets with 50 seats. It will continue to operate 15 70-seaters and 13 90-seaters. Its workforce will be cut accordingly, Delta says. Despite that, Delta officials expect total flight operations at Cincinnati to remain in the 160- to 180-departures-a-day range, similar to today’s numbers. The planes that will be retired or sent back to lessors are those that already have been removed from service or are being under-utilized because of not enough travelers at fares high enough to cover the cost of their operation.
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As Southwest begins N.J. flights soon, industry watchers predict lower fares. – Joseph R. Perone, The Star Ledger, September 1, 2010
Expect fares to drop 20 percent to 30 percent on some routes next year when Southwest Airlines begins flying out of Newark Liberty International Airport, analysts said. Southwest will taxi to a Newark runway for the first time next March after United and Continental airlines agreed to give up takeoff and landing slots so regulators would approve their merger. The Justice Department concluded its review of the merger last Friday — the same day the airlines agreed to lease slots to Southwest. The move will bring another discount carrier to the region, joining JetBlue and AirTran, and provide more competition for the behemoths of the industry, Delta Air Lines and United, following its merger with Continental. “Fares are so much higher at Newark compared with JFK or LaGuardia,” said George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com, a travel website. “Continental has had a stranglehold on its huge megahub. I would expect fares will drop 20 percent or more when Southwest comes in.”
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